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THOUGHTCRIME

An idea is all an entrepreneur has, and seeking guidance can mean risking exposure to thieves

Baker was so terrified someone would steal her idea — and with it, her potential revenue — that she refused to tell friends or even most of her family what she was working on.

“I told only my sister, and I made her swear that she wouldn’t tell anybody,” recalled Baker, whose website, Aligned Signs, went live in August 2012.

When she solicited Web contractors for quotes, she made them sign nondisclosure agreements to protect herself from poachers. And she installed a call recorder on her phone to keep her conversations confidential.

“I felt like this is something I really hope to make part of my life for a really long time, and I didn’t want to jeopardize that in any way,” Baker said.

Baker’s behavior isn’t abnormal in the startup space. Paranoia strikes many entrepreneurs like Baker because when all you have is an idea, you have to ensure that idea is safe, no matter what.

Dennis Bone, director of the Feliciano Center for Entrepreneurship at Montclair State University, attends tech gatherings — known as meetups — all the time. At each of those events, Bone said there always are a handful of entrepreneurs expressing the same concern: They have this great idea that they want to push forward, but they’re scared.

Not only are there others in the startup space to worry about, Bone said, but some startups worry about investors who might snatch up a good idea and turn it into a business with someone else.

“Sometimes I think it actually impedes some entrepreneurs because they haven’t quite figured out what road to take,” Bone said.

“My coaching is always, ‘Go sit down with an attorney,’ ” he said. “You need to have them advise you on what you can and should do, and what the risks are.”

Dror Futter, a partner at SorinRand in East Brunswick, is one of those attorneys. He said there is always risk involved in disclosing an idea, and it can be a difficult space to navigate.

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